The morning after Maxfield aced his 3-year-old debut, trainer Brendan Walsh said Sunday he was “delighted” with the colt’s performance in the Matt Winn Stakes (G3).
“It was nice to come back and run as well as he did,” Walsh said of Maxfield’s one-length win over Ny Traffic at Churchill Downs. “We were hoping for a run like that and he produced it. We were very pleased with him.”
Maxfield improved his career record to 3-for-3 by annexing the Matt Winn, a 1 1/16-mile race that paid 2020 Kentucky Derby points to its top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 basis. Saturday marked the Street Sense colt’s first start since impressively winning the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) last October at his home track of Keeneland.
Surgery to remove a bone chip from Maxfield’s ankle prematurely ended the Godolphin homebred’s 2-year-old season, meaning a return in time to compete for a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gates would’ve been a tough ask in a regular year.
This, of course, is not a regular year. The prolonged Derby trail offered a fully recovered Maxfield a chance to qualify for the Sept. 5 race, and he officially started that effort Saturday by taking the Matt Winn.
Maxfield broke a bit slow from the gate in both his maiden score last September at Churchill and in the Breeders’ Futurity. He broke sharply Saturday, though he was still bumped at the start.
“I don’t know that you could label a horse a slow gate horse after two runs,” Walsh said. “He’s a stronger horse this year and he broke better. That was good to see anyway. It might make life just a little easier on him.”
After running in tight quarters through the first turn, jockey Jose Ortiz had Maxfield on the outside down the backstretch in eighth. The 6/5 favorite started his rally at the 5/16ths pole, moving up to third as the field hit the stretch.
While coming to the finish, Maxfield navigated his way around Ny Traffic, who drifted out toward the center of the track under jockey Paco Lopez. The favorite made his way around that one and crossed the wire first to stay unbeaten.
With Maxfield’s first 3-year-old start complete, stakes options await his connections. The Belmont Stakes runs at 1 1/8 miles June 20 in New York, while Keeneland has requested summer racing dates to include the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) on July 11.
“I guess we’ll just have to see how things pan out here,” Walsh said. “First of all, we need to see how the horse comes out of the race and assess him more than anything. Then we’ll just see what happens with these races. …
“We’re not saying ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to anything as of yet.”